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I see the claim that acutilobate is a “dictionary-only” word, for example seen in the 1913 Webster’s dictionary. How would a word get into a dictionary that only appears in dictionaries and is not really a word in use? Once a word is in a dictionary such as Webster’s doesn’t that confer it life and wouldn’t it generally begin to enter the language in actual use? Websters defines it as a botany term: “Having acute lobes, as some leaves”. Where did acutilobate originate from as a word?

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I don't know about that particular word, but lots of technical words are created anew. Anyway, a word usually gets into a dictionary because it is used, not the other way (a word appears in a dictionary so it starts to be used). Life is in the using. Many (comprehensive) dictionaries have the qualifiers 'obsolete', 'archaic', or 'rare' to show that they maybe once were used often but are not any more. –  Mitch Sep 27 '12 at 16:28
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To the two close voters: This is primarily an etymology question of a valid word. I don't see how that is "too localised". –  coleopterist Sep 27 '12 at 19:42
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1 Answer

up vote 2 down vote accepted

Acutilobate:

Latin acutus (“sharp”) + lobe

(botany) Having acute lobes, as some leaves.

The word very likely comes from the Latin acutilobus:

Having pointed stems

Used almost exclusively as a taxonomic epithet.

Searching for "acutilobus" in Wikipedia yields:

As an adjective, acutilobate could well have been/still be used to describe such plants. Or perhaps it has since been superseded by some other term which has attracted the fancy of botanists worldwide. In any case, that does not mean that the word should no longer be in the dictionary. Some words survive. Some don't. This one very likely didn't, unlike its second cousin twice removed, acutilingual—meaning "having a sharply pointed tongue or mouth, as certain bees"—which has found a curious niche to survive in.

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OED labels it "rare" and "obsolete"... –  GEdgar Sep 27 '12 at 19:37
    
@GEdgar Is the etymology identical to the one stated above? –  coleopterist Sep 27 '12 at 19:43
    
+1 references and research –  Souta Sep 27 '12 at 21:17
    
OED just says [compare post-classical Latin acutilobatus (1841 or earlier)] –  GEdgar Sep 27 '12 at 21:40
    
+1 for the interesting point about acutilingual. –  Pitarou Sep 28 '12 at 0:29
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